Silence and Stillness before God (2 minutes)
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John,because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
Surely, Jesus’ talk of crosses and death would have been deeply unsettling for his followers, especially in light of the miracles they had witnessed. Miracles had not prepared them to welcome crucifixion. We want our miracles to last forever; we expect Lazarus to live forever. But he cannot, and we are bewildered when the recipient of the miracle still dies. It seems that miracles are less of a promise for tomorrow and more of a manifestation of God’s love and power for today.
When Jesus spoke of his death, Peter took him aside and said (I paraphrase), “You are the Messiah! The Chosen One! You can’t die! Your miracles can’t end!” The church in general panics when miracles miscarry. We scurry clumsily about to prop up God’s sagging reputation. Our Lenten plea for today is let the mourning mourn. Grant those who grieve the dignity to ask questions. Bestow upon the bewildered permission to not edit their honesty.
After a loss, the greatest gift you can offer someone is your supportive presence. Clumsy attempts to fix someone else’s pain reflect the probability that we are uncomfortable facing our own. So, today, fast from fixing things. Let the broken be broken for a day.
Question to Consider
Recall miracles that ended in heartbreak: the faith venture that went bankrupt, the pregnancy that miscarried, the new job with the difficult boss. When, if ever, have you felt the need to “prop up God’s sagging reputation”? Why?
Dear Jesus, help us with our memories of heartbreak. Help us to ask you the hard questions, and draw close to you in our pain and confusion. Jesus, help us to be there for others in our lives who are suffering heartbreak, who have tough questions. Help us to be supportive, to be there, even when there are no words. If we must speak, remind us to ask you for the right words to say. Jesus, you were comfortable hanging out with the hurting and the broken; we pray you would make us more like you.
Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)
The 40 days of decrease blogs have been inspired by the book “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chole.